The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [Revised]

Actors Comedy Lab
At Raleigh Little Theatre
Through Sept. 30

By now The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [Revised], the flagship creation of that late-’80s comic troupe the Reduced Shakespeare Company, is far more than a twice-told tale in this region. Still, this production by Actors Comedy Lab at Raleigh Little Theatre provides more than enough reasons for fans of the work to revisit it, and for newbies to check it out.

Creators Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield revised the work in 2008, deleting some sections, adding others and leavening all with another 20 years or so of cultural references and oddball jokes. But the kiss of life given this production is provided by its all-women crew: Rebecca Blum, Izzy Burger and Tracey Phillips.

The region has seen such trios take on Shakespeare before, and Blum’s participation provides crossover between this cast and the rambunctious Nickel Shakespeare Girls. But under Rod Rich’s direction, this female cast nimbly diverts the comedic focus in many scenes to elements other than the low drag that was milked for all it was worth in the original, all-male version.

When they do, we quickly realize how much of the rest of this script is funny. The answer: quite a lot.

That said, I would have advocated ditching a Hamlet that remains a far-too-lengthy exercise in audience participation, along with the repeated barf gags. But throwing Titus Andronicus well into the realm of Paula Deen and suiting up the trio like the Carolina Rollergirls (abetted by Jenny Mitchell’s witty costumes) to play the tragedies are just two of the treats awaiting newcomersand those who think they already know this show. Recommended.

This article appeared in print with the headline “Better off red.”